Go to WTJ Information Page Go to WTJ Portal Go to WTJ War Series Go to WTJ Archives Go to WTJ Articles Go to WTJ Gaming Go to WTJ Store Go to WTJ Home Page


Tactical Notes : Equipment & Defense Notes : Troops & Units : Keys

Despite their sophisticated pre-war research into camouflage uniforms and advanced tactical doctrines, the French Army began the war in 1914 with obsolete equipment, uniforms and training. Their doctrine of the offensive prevented the creation of a heavy artillery arm, and interfered with any attempt to train men in the intricacies of field works. These purposeful omissions, which were made for purely emotional reasons, were to cost France dearly in lives lost.

Tactical Notes:
As with other nations, French line infantry began the war operating in close order. They are known to have been operating in open order by the start of the Somme Offensive in June, 1916, something they had probably been doing since at least late the year before. Even though they abandoned close order formations sooner than other allied armies, they never really picked up on the use of assault troops as aggressively as the Germans, although they seem to have employed picked men to lead off their assaults. As in the German Army, some hide-bound French officers continued attempting to use close order formations after others had stopped using them. The army certainly employed captured technologies with more gusto than the British, with both flamethrowers and gas warfare agents being prime examples.

Equipment & Defense Notes:
The standard field gun for French units was the Model 1897 75mm, which is shell size 5 for game play. All trench mortar quantities mentioned in the troop and unit lists are approximations. Below are the defense values used to establish troop defenses (if any) to be used during the setup phase of the game. These defensive levels are meant only as rough averages. Players creating their own scenarios may want to adjust them for different situations. For example, an "old" battlefield may have very heavy wire entanglements and many pillboxes. A "new" battlefield located in an area not previous fought over would have very little or no wire entanglements and no bunkers. See the Game Setup page or Advanced Game Setup for more information.
Defense Setup:
1914 | Trench ½40
1915 | Trench ½40 | Wire ½40 | Pillbox ¼
1916 | Trench ½70 | Wire ½40 | Pillbox ½ | Bunker ¼
1917 | Trench ½70 | Wire ½40 | Pillbox 1 | Bunker ½
1918 | Trench ½70 | Wire ½70 | Pillbox 1 | Bunker ½
French wartime usage of defensive positions went through several stages. During 1915 and 1916, nearly all French commanders kept the bulk of their armed strength in the front trenches. This was done in the belief that an enemy breakthrough needed to be stopped at the front and that troops needed to be kept available for immediate counter-attack (this thinking was a natural extension of the doctrine of the offensive). Unfortunately, this system guaranteed the maximum number of casualties to barrage fire, as packed trenches suffered greatly from hours or days of German heavy artillery fire. Only a small number of officers supported the concept of non-linear or "elastic" defense in depth using staggered sets of bunkers and other hard points. But it was not until 1917 that the high command began allowing such a deployment. The transition resulted in average defense depths of several miles instead of the few hundred yards which had previously existed in some low-intensity zones before this time (high intensity zones would have greater depth to their defenses, even if that depth was defended primarily from its front edge).

Troops and Units:
The orders of battle shown below offer a list of average unit values in order to give 1916 players an idea of how historical formations should be represented for game play. Real life units varied in type, strength and quality, depending on their location and readiness level. Overall, there were a huge variety of units created during the war, from forestry battalions to assault companies. This prevents us from trying to list them all, and players are encouraged to use these lists as guidelines for creating other units they would like to use on the battlefield.
Trench Raiders
Units:1 | Bases:1 | Morale:Reckless | Training:Great | Machine Guns:1 Light | Note:Probably used only for night time hit and run attacks to take prisoners, gather intelligence, etc..
Nettoyers (pronounced: net-wah-yeh) 1916+
Units:3 | Bases:1 | Morale:Brave | Training:Great | Special:One base may have flamethrowers. | Note:Called "trench cleaners," these units were used behind advancing troops to clear pockets of resistance. Not used as assault troops.
Assault Detachment (Divisional level) 1917+
Units:1 | Bases:3 | Morale:Brave | Training:Great | Machine Guns:1 medium | Trench Mortars:1 light
Cavalry Squadron
Units:1 | Bases:12 | Morale:Steady | Training:Average
Engineer Company
Units:1 | Bases:6 | Morale:Steady | Training:Average Special:May conduct engineering tasks. After late 1916, one base may have flamethrowers.

Infantry Battalion 1914
Units:5 | Bases:9 | Morale:Steady | Training:Average | Machine Guns:1 medium
Infantry Battalion 1915
Units:5 | Bases:9 | Morale:Steady | Training:Average | Machine Guns:2 medium, 1 light
Chasseurs Alpins Battalion 1915
Units:7 | Bases:9 | Morale:Brave | Training:Great | Machine Guns:2 medium | Note:Not subject to the early war limitation on open order deployment.
Zouave/African Battalion 1914-16
Units:5 | Bases:9 | Morale:Brave or Reckless | Training:Average | Machine Guns:1 or 2 medium
Infantry Battalion 1916
Units:5 | Bases:9 | Morale:Steady | Training:Average | Machine Guns:2 or 3 medium, 4 light
Infantry Battalion 1917
Units:6 | Bases:6 | Morale:Shaky | Training:Average | Machine Guns:3 medium, 3 light | Trench Mortars:1 light
Infantry Battalion 1918
Units:6 | Bases:6 | Morale:Shaky | Training:Average | Machine Guns:3 or 4 medium, 6 light | Trench Mortars:1 light

Infantry Regiment 1914-16
Battalions:3 infantry
Infantry Regiment 1917-18
Battalions:3 infantry | Special:2 or 3 nettoyer units, for use behind other formations, 1 or 2 divisional assault detachments.

Infantry Brigade 1914
Regiments:2 infantry

Infantry Division 1914
Brigades:2 infantry | Other:1 cavalry squadron, 1 engineer company
Infantry Division 1917
Regiments:3 infantry

Defense Setup Key: Each line on the Defense Setup list covers the setup values for a certain year of the war. These values are approximates only, and players with special insights are encouraged to adjust these values according to their own preferences, or for specific scenario elements. Below are definitions of each basic feature type.
1916 The year of the war with applies to the following defense allotments
Trench ½70 The player receives game board trenchlines equal one-half die roll (½D6) multiplied by seventy inches. Other multiples will be forty inches and one-hundred inches. For example, the hypothetical player who rolled a 5 on this die roll would be allowed to set up a maximum of 210 inches worth of fire trenches, slit trenches and foxholes on the game board.
Wire ½40 Same die rolling method as for trenchlines, but applies to acquisition of barbed wire entanglements. Note that for ease of play, the length of each barbed wire segment should equal the width of an infantry base.
Pillbox ½ Values shown without a second number immediately following will use that final value to establish the number of those items allowed for that player. For example: The hypothetical player who rolled a 3 on this die roll would be allowed to set up two pillboxes on the game board.
Bunker ¼ Same system as for pillboxes, but applies to acquisition of bunkers instead:
A ½ die roll means that a 1 or 2 = One, 3 or 4 = Two, 5 or 6 = Three. A ¼ die roll means that a: 1 through 4 = One, and a 5 or 6 = Two.

Troop and Unit Key:
Formation Type - Year
Units:number of subunits in the formation ¹ | Bases:number of bases per subunit | Morale:approximate formation morale | Training:approximate training level of the units | Machine Guns:average number of machine guns which the formation may possess | Mortars:average number of trench mortars which the formation may possess | Towed Cannon:average number of towed cannon which the formation may possess. | Special:special weapons or conditions, such as flamethrowers, etc.

¹ — Note that higher level formations will be composed of companies, battalions or regiments instead of bases and units.
  Copyright © 1996-2003 by The War Times Journal at www.wtj.com. All rights reserved.
All games shown here may be freely downloaded for personal use only. Not for resale or any other commercial venture not authorized by The War Times Journal.